You may have noticed that I have been studiously avoiding writing about the approaching Israeli elections, due to take place next Tuesday. This is not because I have nothing to say about them. On the contrary, I have too much to say, and almost none of it is positive or complimentary. In fact I feel almost physically sick at the revolting politicking and back-biting that has been going on between all the parties and have been trying my utmost to avoid watching or listening to the party political broadcasts in the media.
However I can’t avoid the subject forever, and election day is rapidly approaching, so here are a couple of articles which reflect my feelings – mainly frustration, fear and a slight case of panic as the latest polls give the “Zionist Union”, formerly known as the Labour Party, a 4-seat lead over Likud. Of course a week is a long time in politics, but if the right-wing infighting doesn’t stop, it could spell disaster for all of us.
Now as to what is “nauseating.” … what I have in mind is the election campaign here in Israel. It has demoralized me, along with a host of others.
I imagine that at my core I am naïve I actually believe that the good of the nation must come first, and not the opportunity to advance oneself in an election. And so, what I have been seeing has been unbearable for me.
For a good part of the campaign, the thrust of what is being called the “Zionist Camp” – aka the Labor Party, headed by Buji Herzog and Tzipi Livni – has focused on the goal of “anyone but Bibi” rather than a positive agenda. In the course of promoting that goal, charges emanated from the left that were vile for their petty and insipid focus. The “biggie” was the charge that Sara Netanyahu returned bottles from drinks that had been purchased with State funds (for some official entertaining, presumably) and pocketed the refund monies. Shock. Horrors. THIS is what there was to talk about when the world is on fire? Turns out that the charges weren’t true, but this seems almost beside the point.
Because of my naiveté – or, better perhaps, my idealism – I also think there are times when it is essential to support the head of the government, even if it means that your own chances of replacing him are thus diminished. I absolutely believe it was Buji’s place – criticize as he might such other things as housing policy – to state that he stands with Bibi with regard to his talk in Congress, stands with him as one on the issue of Iran, and is proud that the prime minister of Israel would be received as he was.
But no, Buji was big on criticizing Bibi for his “rift” with Obama, and suggested that it was wrong for him to leave the country when there is so much here to tend to (just as he, Buji, was busy attending to “things”).
Heaven forbid that either Buji or Livni should suggest that Prime Minister. Netanyahu did a good thing in Washington, and just perhaps made Israel a bit safer. Never mind that he enhanced Israel’s prestige internationally.
Yesterday, there was a left wing rally in Tel Aviv – officially run by a “two-state” group, and not any party – that was solidly “anyone but Bibi.” Likud has charged that it was funded by foreign money. Key speaker was former head of the Mossad Meir Dagan, who has tilted quite left. According to a JPost report, he said that ‘Our leadership is scarier than our enemies.” While Iran is very scary, the way Netanyahu has handled matters has hurt efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear armament program.
A couple from Tel Aviv who attended the rally is quoted as saying that among the things Netanyahu failed at was “diplomacy.”
Now really. Is the relationship with Obama the key? Did they not see how Congress responded to him? Have they not heard that Arab Sunni states support our prime minister? Arab states.
The charge, also made at this rally, that Bibi has failed because he has not negotiated a “two state solution,” thereby ushering in “peace,” is a huge red herring. Even many of those who would prefer to see a Palestinian state admit that it is not a possibility now and would cause great security damage to Israel.
But why bother with the truth, when it’s possible to attack Netanyahu?
On Friday, the left-leaning newspaper Yediot Aharonot published a document that it said was a list of “drastic concessions” that Netanyahu had been willing to make in August of 2013, in the course of negotiations with the PA. These concessions allegedly included such things as a deal on Jerusalem and full “restitution” to the Palestinian Arabs of land secured in 1967.
Prime Minister Netanyahu countered that this was a draft, floated by the US: In an attempt to jumpstart negotiations, the Americans had floated a document to which each side could then respond. Netanyahu never agreed to withdrawal to the pre-1967 line nor to dividing Jerusalem, nor to some concession on Palestinian Arab “right of return.”
Dennis Ross, who served as an American negotiator at the time in question, says exactly the same thing: Netanyahu never agreed to any of these terms.
Yesterday, Defense Minister Bogie Ya’alon said that since neither side agreed to the terms of that document that had been floated by the US, the document was “not relevant.”
What then, asked Ya’alon, was Yediot’s intention in publishing this document now? The answer is obvious: to create an impression that Netanyahu was prepared to make huge concessions, thus discrediting him with the very voters upon whom he depends.
Likud has charged that Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Mozes has orchestrated a campaign to mislead the public.
So here we have a newspaper – if that is what we call it – more interested in the “Bibi must go” campaign than in reporting facts.
This too, my friends, I find nauseating.
There is hardly any need to add a single word. Arlene Kushner expresses my thoughts perfectly and much more coherently and eloquently than I could manage.
But in case you’re interested in more, way back in February we were already aware of the viciousness of the election campaigns. I wrote about foreign interference, particularly American, on behalf of the Left Wing, organized by the mysterious V15 group. At around the same time, Isi Leibler wrote in Israel Hayom about “A revolting election and a vicious media”:
Topping the charts for vulgarity has been the obsessive and primitive attacks designed to discredit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by portraying his wife as a resurrected witch from Salem. This was spearheaded by Meni Naftali, a disgruntled employee who is obviously being promoted by those engaged in the “Anyone but Bibi” campaign. His allegations of ”abuse” include claims that Sara Netanyahu reprimanded him over issues such as providing milk in a bag instead of a carton.
The latest accusation of “Bottlegate” alleged that Sara Netanyahu was “stealing” 1,000 shekels a year worth of bottle refunds, despite the fact that this was clearly a bureaucratic oversight rectified at her own initiative two years ago. Can anyone seriously visualize the Netanyahu family planning to augment their income by an extra 20 shekels ($5) a week from bottle refunds? Yet the sickening media obsession with this issue was infinitely more passionate than the shocking Yisrael Beytenu corruption charges.
The Prime Minister’s Office has also been accused of buying too much ice cream and even worse, purchasing higher quality ice cream. And the latest act of purported extravagance was the consumption of a bottle of wine a day, which was dubbed excessive. We have also had Bibitours allegations of accepting disproportionate hospitality on a visit to the U.K. 10 years ago, which had previously been raised and dismissed.
It clearly represents a concerted conspiracy to divert debate from the real issues and seeks to depict Netanyahu as corrupt and avaricious. The worst feature of this vulgarity is that two newspapers have transformed these nonissues into screaming front-page headlines. Haaretz has a clear political agenda but one would have expected it to concentrate on genuine issues rather than seeking to exploit the lowest forms of populism by stooping to petty character assassination against a candidate and his wife.
There follows an explanation of the vicious media war between the left-leaning Yediot newspaper and the right-wing Yisrael Hayom, which has only exacerbated the nastiness of this election campaign. The article continues:
But even worse is the effort to gain votes by seeking to discredit Netanyahu even when this conflicts with the national interest and undermines Israel’s global position.
This has been the constant refrain of Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, who have blamed Netanyahu rather than PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the breakdown in negotiations with the Palestinians. They have of course not proposed an alternative approach to the intransigent and duplicitous Palestinian leaders.
Likewise, they have condemned Netanyahu rather than U.S. President Barack Obama for the toxic relationship that prevails between them. They have not said that they would accept Obama’s call for adopting the indefensible borders based on the 1949 armistice lines or accept U.S. demands to freeze construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem on the grounds that these constitute settlements.
Their crass and cynical attacks on Netanyahu’s visit to France were appalling.
But the most irresponsible act was their hysterical condemnation of Netanyahu for having agreed to address Congress to alert the world of the tremendous dangers inherent in enabling Iran to become a nuclear state.
There are other bizarre aspects to the election. It is almost comical to observe Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, continuously, unashamedly condemning the government — in which he was finance minister — for having failed to confront and reform social and economic anomalies.
Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beytenu, has been on a downward spiral since the exposure of the extent of corruption at senior levels. He has been zigzagging, issuing alternating hawkish sound bites followed by dovish ones. During the flare-up with Hezbollah at the Syrian border, despite being foreign minister, he highlighted the dysfunction of his own government by condemning it for not being tough enough in its response. Realizing that his dovish outbursts have undermined his core supporters, he has now proclaimed that he would never join a left-wing government, in stark contradiction to what he had been saying a few weeks ago.
Likud as the governing party has been less on the offensive and has sought to debate issues rather than personalities. But it has accused Herzog and Livni of being behind Victory 2015 (V15), a group heavily engaged in lobbying for them, and raising of millions of dollars from abroad, including foreign governments, in contravention of election finance laws. They note that Herzog’s illegal fundraising for Ehud Barak had been a scandalous fraud but was quietly shelved in 1999 after Herzog invoked his right of silence to deter any investigation. Ironically, Livni, who at the time was a member of Likud, led the charge against Herzog in 1999. But then again, Livni who is at the forefront of the Bottlegate brouhaha, was still willing to run with Olmert in the last election after he had been criminally convicted.
Even my favourite party, Bayit Yehudi, comes in for sadly well-deserved criticism:
Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, who was until recently riding a crest of popularity, shot himself in the foot by autocratically selecting Eli Ohana, a secular former football star with no serious credentials, outraging all his party colleagues. When some of his inner circle accused him of engaging in low-level populism and betraying the ideals of his party, threatening to leave the party, he was forced to back down.
Leibler has some good suggestions:
What is needed in lieu of character assassination and crass populist demagoguery are basic facts to enable the public to assess and vote on the basis of which party can best deal with the following crucial challenges. They should ask themselves:
- Who can best handle the confronting military and security issues?
- Who is best able to turn the current anti-Israeli global tide without making concessions that will undermine our security?
- Who is best equipped to bring about sorely needed social and economic reforms that will enhance the quality of life for most Israelis?
- Who is best able to resolve the issues of religion and state as well as be strong enough to resist haredi pressure and bring about changes that will peacefully engage more haredim in the workforce and ensure that they share the national burden?
Isi Leibler concludes on a hopeful note:
One can only hope that despite the shameful media sensationalism, it is the serious issues — not the slanders about bottle refunds or ice cream — that will determine how Israelis vote.
Unfortunately I do not share his hope and am dreading the election results.
As my own contribution to Bayit Yehudi’s election campaign, or to the right-wing in general, I bring you Eli E. Hertz’s backgrounder on the danger of voting for Tzipi Livni:
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was intended to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.
Much controversy is being generated as to Livni’s ability to manage and lead. At first she advocated honesty, but when it came to drafting resolution 1701 this principle seemed to have evaporated.
Is it ignorance or blatant falsehood? You decide …
1. Livni: “Security Council Resolution 1701 is an Israeli achievement”
Fact: Adopting Resolution 1701 under Chapter VII was a clear goal of Israel that did not materialize!
Livni and Olmert’s claim that the cease-fire that brought the fighting to a halt, is somehow indicative of a success, either militarily or diplomatically, is erroneous. The Government of Israel failed to protect its citizens – unable to stop the daily barrage of Katyushas landing in northern and central Israel, with nearly a million Israelis displaced; Israel’s urgent need for a cease-fire was obvious. If the war would have kept going at its pace, Israel would have suffered the greatest military humiliation in its history. As the Wall Street Journal noted: “Israel has nothing to show for its 1701 Resolution”
2. Livni: “A decision was reached by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to approve the start of a military operation and just as it was starting to go into action late Friday [August 11, 2006] we began to strengthen the resolution and return it to the level at which we felt it should originally be.”
Fact: John Bolton, who was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Second Lebanon War, rejected Livni and Olmert’s version of the failed ground offensive during the war’s final days: “The Israeli military operation did not play a role in the talks on drafting the UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
Read the rest of the article to see what a farce Resolution 1701 turned out to be, and how stupid Tzipi Livni appears as she boasts about her “achievement”.
No wonder the Left have been hiding her on this campaign trail as she seems to have disappeared completely from the public eye.
I hope to be posting some more background on the various parties in a subsequent post. Stay tuned.